The year is 1989, and I am a senior in high school in Milan, Ohio. I am standing just outside the band room and I am talking to my band instructor — Mr. G. I ask him, “I want to do music for a career. What are my options?”. He tells me, “You can continue getting better on your instrument and try to join an orchestra. Or you can continue to get better on your theory and try and become a composer for orchestra. Or you can teach. That’s pretty much it.”

At the time, I was in the marching band, the wind ensemble, the stage band, the pep band, the invitational band, and a garage band. I also ran sound and video for school functions. Mr. G knew all these things about me, and he probably knew that the idea of working as a “classical” musician had little appeal to me. But from his perspective, looking backwards, he didn’t grasp what the “music industry” really was.

Fast forward about 10 years to 1999. The ink on my music business/music production degree from Belmont University is hardly dry. I am sitting in a meeting room at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee where Hillary Rosen of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is speaking to a few hundred Nashville music industry professionals. She is talking about this new Internet file sharing site called “Napster”, the technology behind it called “.mp3”, and how the RIAA is going to shut it down.

At this point in my life, I have been in college since 1994. At no point in my college career did any of my instructors mention “.mp3” technology (the technology was developed in 1993)… and I was in the audio production field. As I listen to Rosen speak, I feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck as I start to realize that I am completely prepared for an industry that in very short order will no longer exist. My college instructors, looking backwards, had failed to grasp what the “music industry” really was.

Jump forward about another decade to 2009. I am working at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. They hosting the annual Music and Entertainment Industry Educators’ Association conference. Hundreds of colleges from across the country have sent instructors to Berklee to share ideas and participate in a dialogue about the music industry and music industry education.

I travel from room to room, sitting in on these discussions and listening to these various educators speak. With great anticipation I look forward to the presentation of a paper entitled “Media Evolution and its Correlative Effective upon Curricular Instruction in the Twenty-First Century”. I anticipate such a presentation, thoroughly researched by a career educator, will be revelatory. Sadly, it was not. In fact, throughout the entire conference I only hear the same perspectives that I had heard when I was in high school and when I was a college student. These career educators, looking backwards, are still failing to grasp what the music industry truly is.


As the realization of that moment sinks in, I have my epiphany. For my entire professional career, all my influencers have been looking backwards — my high school band instructor, my college instructors and the powers that be in the industry, and ultimately the institution of higher education. For the first time, I can clearly see the problem. It is not the responsibility of education to prepare the student for the market that “was” or even the market that currently “is”, but rather for the one that “will be”. The gulf between what the current higher education system teaches the market “is” and what the market actually “is” is expansive and virtually insurmountable given their current approach. Their structure, and sadly in many cases their apathy, simply does not allow them to keep pace with the tempo at which this industry moves.

I left a fantastic job, one that most people work a lifetime to achieve, with the sole intent of fixing this broken system. GROOVE U takes an entirely different approach to music industry higher education. We approached the market first and asked them one simple question, “What skills do you need your employees to have in two years?”. Their answers shaped and continue to shape everything we do, both inside and outside of the classroom. We then throughly researched our competition to find out who, if anyone, was answering this question; we determined no one really was.

Then we put the student first and determined a way to do it better.

Dwight D. Heckelman
Primary Catalyst
Spring 2011